KENYA

Kenya

Introduction Kenya is officially referred to as the Republic of Kenya located in East Africa and a member state of the East African Community and the African Union. Kenya is bordered to the north by Ethiopia, to the west by Uganda, to the east by Somalia, to the south by Tanzania, to the northwest by South Sudan and to the southwest by the Indian Ocean. Kenya’s capital city is Nairobi which is the largest while its second largest city is Mombasa situated on Mombasa Island in the Indian Ocean and the surrounding main land. Mombasa is as well Kenya’s oldest city which was the capital of the British East Africa Protectorate from 1889 to 1907. Other important cities in Kenya include Nakuru and Kisumu. Kenya’s climate, geography and population varies ranging from cold snow-capped mountaintops that is to say Batian, Nelion and Point Lenana on Mount Kenya with vast surrounding forests, wildlife and fertile agricultural regions to temperate climates in western and rift valley counties and further on to dry less fertile arid and semi-arid areas and absolute deserts of Chalbi and Nyiri deserts. This country’s earliest inhabitants were hunter-gatherers like the present day Hadza people. Cushitic speakers first settled in Kenya’s lowlands between 3,200 and 1,300BC according to archaeological dating of associated artifacts and skeletal material. Another phase known as the Lowland Savanna Pastoral Neolithic began migrating from the present day South Sudan into Kenya around 500BC. Bantu speaking people also settled at the coast and the interior between 250BC and 500AD. European contact began in 1500AD with the Portuguese Empire and immediate colonization of Kenya commenced in the 19th century During the European exploration of Kenya’s interior. The modern day Kenya immerged from a protectorate established by the British Empire in 1895 and the subsequent Kenya colony which began in 1920. The Mau Mau rebellion struck in 1952 due to numerous disputes between UK and the colony. Kenya therefore got her independence in 1963 after which Kenya remained a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. The current constitution was adopted in 2010 and replaced the 1963 Independence constitution. Kenya is a presidential representative democratic republic in which elected officials represent the people and the president is the head of state and government. Jomo Kenyatta became Kenya’s first president after the Republic of Kenya was proclaimed on 12 December 1964. Kenyatta ruled until his death on 22 August 1978 after which Daniel Arap Moi took over becoming Kenya’s second president and retained the presidency, running unopposed in elections held in 1979, 1983 and 1988 all of which were held under the single party constitution. Several other presidents ruled Kenya during their terms for example Mwai Kibaki, Uhuru Kenyatta and the current president William Ruto who formerly worked as Uhuru Kenyatta’s deputy president. In August 2022, Deputy President William Ruto narrowly won the presidential election by 50.5% and his rival Raila Odinga got 48.8% of the votes. On the 13th of September 2022, William Ruto was sworn in as Kenya’s fifth president till date. Kenya has two official languages that are widely spoken that’s to say English and Swahili. However, Swahili which is a Bantu language native to East Africa is more widely spoken than English. There are several other local languages that are spoken by Kenya’s ethnic groups for example Kikuyu, Luhya, Kalenjin, Luo, Kamba, Masai, Kisii, Mijikenda, Turkana, Meru to mention but a few. Kenya’s foreign-rooted population includes the Somalis, Asians, Arabs, Europeans and many more.   Weather and climate The climate of Kenya varies from tropical along the coast to temperate inland to arid in the north and northeastern region. This country receives a great deal of sunshine every month though it is usually cool at night and early in the morning inland at higher elevations. The wet season with long rains occurs from March/April to May/June. The country receives short rains from October to November/December. Kenya’s rain falls are sometimes heavy and often fall in the afternoons and evenings. Climate change is altering the natural pattern of the rainfall period causing an extension of the short rains which has begun floods and reduced the drought cycle from every ten years to annual events producing strong droughts like the 2008-2009 Kenya drought. Temperatures remain high throughout these months of tropical rainfalls. The hottest period is February and March leading into the long rains and the coldest period is in July until mid-August. Why Kenya is a popular tourist destination Kenya is a top rated year-round beach getaway and one of Africa’s beast safari destinations boasting superb game viewing and wildlife encounters. Kenya is regarded as an ultimate safari destination that houses some of Africa’s best National Parks and wildlife reserves made up of vast favorable wildlife habitats, a vast range of thriving, complex and diverse landscapes and one of the world’s most remarkable and distinct wildlife populations. Kenya hosts one of the seven wonders of the Natural world known as the annual wildebeest migration. This wondrous animal migration involves millions of wildebeests, thousands of zebras, gazelles and other grazers moving southwards from Masai Mara National Reserve of Kenya to Serengeti National Park in Tanzania. Kenya’s iconic tourist attractions and activities Kenya is made up of incredible tourist attractions that range from beautified landscapes comprising of prepossessing mountain ranges, beaches to National Parks and reserves that are commonly known for wildlife conservation and geo-conservation due to the geological formations for example hot springs, plateaus, escarpments, caldera volcanic craters, metamorphic rocks to mention but a few. Kenya is made up of 24 National Parks, 15 National Reserves, private conservancies and 6 marine Parks that are all worth it namely; Masai Mara National Reserve Masai Mara National Reserve is situated to the west of Kenya’s capital Nairobi at the Tanzania’s northern border. This National Reserve offers wonderful scenery and abundance of wildlife and big games, breathtaking vistas, panoramas of several rolling hills and plains. The Masai Mara National reserve is a unique wildlife conservation haven famous for its spectacular natural diversity of wildlife such as large numbers of lions, African buffaloes, elephants, rhinos, cheetahs, giraffes, zebras, leopards, gazelles, wildebeests to mention but a few. Masai Mara National Reserve is a site for wildebeest migration during which large herds of animals including millions of wildebeests, zebras, gazelles and predators like the big cats migrate north into the Mara from Serengeti National Park of Tanzania. Animals’ drama is experienced here as wildebeests and other grazers make dangerous crossings through crocodile infested rivers. Amboseli National Park Amboseli National Park is one of Kenya’s most popular National Parks well known as the home of African Elephants since it harbors large herds of elephants. This National Park is made up of several animal habitats that range from the dried-up beds of Lake Amboseli, Sulphur springs wetlands, savannah grasslands and woodlands. This is a perfect place for wildlife enthusiasts and those interested in viewing Kenya’s animals such as elephants, cheetahs, leopards, zebras, lions, giraffes, mongoose, hyrax, lesser kudu, dik-dik, buffaloes to mention but a few. This National Park is as well a birders paradise due to its prolific birdlife that features over 600 bird species. The Aberdare National Park The Aberdare National Park is situated in the Aberdare mountain ranges east of the East African Rift Valley in central Kenya. The Park contains a wide range of landscapes from mountain peaks that rise up to 4,000meters above sea level to their deep v-shaped valleys intersected by rivers, waterfalls and streams. Wildlife present in this Park include mountain reedbucks, leopards, lions, wild dogs, elephants, bushbucks, cape buffaloes, side stripped jackals, elephants, waterbucks, common elands, duikers eastern black rhinoceros and primates like the black and white colobus monkeys, Sykes monkey, olive baboons and many more. Lake Nakuru National Park Lake Nakuru National Park is situated in the southwestern region of Kenya, northwest of the capital Nairobi encompassing an area of 73 square miles. This Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its countless flamingoes and abundant wildlife. Lake Nakuru National Park is ideal for game viewing, bird watching, hiking and picnics. This Park is famous for its greater and lesser flamingoes and over 450 terrestrial bird species that flock the Lake throughout the year. This protected area is a haven to over 56 different mammal species such as the white rhinos, buffaloes, giraffes, lions, zebras, reedbucks, waterbucks to mention but a few. Other attractions within the Park include the Makalia waterfalls, Hills like Enasoit hill, honeymoon hill, lion hill ridge and several viewpoints such as the baboon cliff, out of Africa to mention but a few. The glorious coast with white sand beaches Kenya’s south coast is renowned for its palm-fringed white sand beaches such as the Diani beach as well as the accessible coral reefs. Mombasa’s lively atmosphere has as well attracted beach lovers due to its popular stretches of coastlines like the Kilifi beach. Mombasa is also one of the few places where visitors can get a taste of both beach life and a safari holiday in Simba Hills National Reserve just 56kilometers south of Mombasa and directly inland from Diani beach. North of Mombasa is the ever popular Malindi a town at the center of not only the country’s finest tropical beaches but also the entire Africa. At Malindi, one is able to engage in deep-sea fishing as well as some excellent diving and snorkeling at the Malindi Marine National Park. In the far north of Kenya lies the Lamu Archipelago made up of magnificent islands of Lamu and Manda that provide idyllic and exclusive romantic getaways in the likes of Manda bay and Peponi. Nairobi city This is Kenya’s largest city as well as it capital city. It is modern multicultural and historic town with amazing attractions such as wildlife, museums and historical monuments. The key attractions in this city are the Karen Blixen museum, giraffe center, Nairobi National Museum, the Bomas of Kenya and Nairobi National Park. The Karen Blixen museum was the home of the renowned Danish plantation owner and author Karen Blixen. This was later turned into a museum to commemorate her life and times in Kenya. Other tourist attractions in Kenya include the Samburu and buffalo springs National Reserve, Kigio wildlife conservancy, Tsavo National Park, Meru National Reserve, Ol Pejeta Conservancy, Lake Naivasha, Mountain Kenya, Hells Gate National Park, the crying stones in Kakamega, Mount Kenya National Park to mention but a few. Below are Kenya’s iconic tourist activities; Wildlife viewing/game drives Game viewing is done on an open roof tourist vehicle through vast plains of Kenya’s National Parks and Reserves such as Masai Mara National Reserve, Amboseli National Park, Tsavo National Park, Aberdare National Park, Hells Gate National Park to mention but a few. During wildlife viewing, several animals are spotted for example the big five mammals, giraffes, cheetahs, hyenas, wild dogs, bushbucks, waterbucks, Dik-dik, reedbucks, wildebeests, zebras, gazelles to mention but a few. Witnessing the great wildebeest migration in Masai Mara National Reserve is Kenya’s wildlife highlight that occurs every year. This unique animal event attracts visitors from all over the world to witness millions of wildebeests, thousands of gazelles, zebras and other grazers migrate between Kenya’s Masai Mara and Tanzania’s Serengeti plains in search for fresh pastures and water. Bird watching Kenya is a haven to over 1,000 bird species including endemic species to this region and rare treasures such as the great blue turaco, papyrus Gonolek, African grey-parrot, Sharpe’s long claw and the abbortt’s starling. The country’s National Parks and Reserves offer plenty of birding spots and opportunities for example Lake Nakuru National Park, Lake Naivasha National Park, Sambura National Reserve, Aberdare National Park, Buffalo spring National Reserve to mention but a few. Mountain climbing/hiking Mountain hikes are usually done on Mountain Kenya which is the country’s highest mountain standing at an elevation of 5,199meters above sea level. Mountain Kenya has three climbing routes namely Naro Moru, Sirimon and Chogoria. Hiking to its peak takes an experienced climber around 4 to 6 days to reach its highest peak known as Lenana. The Sirmon route is considered the least challenging and the best for acclimatization. Whereas the Chogoria route offers spectacular views of temple cliffs, Mugi hills, Nithi falls, Lake Ellis, Lake Michaelson, Giant’s table and the Gorge’s valley while the Naro Moru route is the fastest route to the summit. Hot air Balloon safaris over the Masai Mara plains A Hot Air Balloon Safari is an extraordinary way to enjoy the wide expanse of wildlife with in the Masai Mara National Reserve and its surroundings. The aerial view of the wildlife and the landscape below is incredible and offers a fresh perspective as one quietly flies over the Park’s endless plains and thus creating unforgettable memories waiting to enjoy a champagne celebration on landing. Snorkeling at Kisite Marine Park  The Kisite-Mpunguti Marine National Park is situated on the southern coast of Kenya and south of Wasini Island making it an ideal place for marine life for example green sea turtles, barracuda, angel fish, dolphins, clams, octopus, rays to mention but a few. This Park also has a stunning underwater kingdom with sculpted islands and living coral gardens where snorkeling can be done while witnessing a bounty of marine life hiding within the coral reefs. Other activities include camping in the Mara plains, horse and camel riding in the Loisaba conservancy, adventure sports activities at Diani beach, Lake Bogoria hot springs sightings, boat rides along the country’s Lakes and Dhow trips to several Islands in the Indian Ocean, nature walks and biking with in Hell’s Gate National Park, cultural tours, visiting the David Sheldrick Animal Orphanage to mention but a few. Safety and security Kenya is generally a safe country to visit since the Tourism industry is very established and visitors are well looked after. However like any other nation, terrorist attacks are possible and could happen any time including in areas with foreigners and tourists though the Kenyan Authorities remain on high alert. These terrorist groups like the al-Shabaab come from Kenya’s neighboring countries like Somalia and thus making Kenya’s borders with Somalia, Ethiopia and South Sudan high-risk areas though tour operators will only take you to places that are considered safe. There are crimes such as theft, pickpocketing, carjacking, scams and many more in big cities like Nairobi and Mombasa, but most of them can be avoided by following basic safety precautions. Political demonstrations and protests can be expected across Kenya at any time, therefore you should stay clear of political demonstrations and avoid political gatherings as well as following advice from local authorities. Below are some of the tips on how to stay safe in Kenya;
  • Be wary of anyone asking for money or information even if they seem official since criminals often fake police, government and hotel identification to extort money from travelers.
  • Avoid walking around after dark and try as much as possible to invest in strong personal security measures.
  • Take official warnings serious, follow instructions from local authorities and ensure continuous monitoring of the media for threats.
  • When heading out in the city, follow a few simple safety precautions and seek advice from your hotel before going out. Don’t wear valuables and only take the money you need with you.
More than a million tourists travel to Kenya every year, and the vast majority of the visits are trouble-free. Getting around Kenya There are several options to travel around Kenya depending on your time constraints and budget for example by road, by air and by train. While travelling by road, there are several means of transport as described below;
  • Traveling by bus; Kenya offers a network of long distance bus lines though the journey can be tiresome, bumpy and dusty. Therefore it is advisable to choose a reputable bus company for long journeys. It is also advisable when using the bus to travel during the day rather than in the night due to threats of carjacking and road traffic accidents. Local buses in Kenya are provided by private transportation companies and they are affordable while offering comfortable seating. Buses have regular schedules of services in and out of Kenya’s city centers and seat 20 to 35 passengers which is an effective way of travelling through the cities of Kenya.
  • By use of taxis known as Matatus; these matatus have a seating capacity of 14 passengers and only operate over short and medium distances. Matatus usually travel along set routes, however it is possible to charter a matatu for travel outside of major towns after you have agreed on the price before departure. Matatus are very cheap, quick and convenient means of transport to all major towns and many rural areas.
  • Car hires/ by rental cars; these cars are operated by international car rental companies that have offices within Nairobi and Mombasa. These car rental companies offer expensive but reliable cars with full back-up network.
Travelling by Air; most travelers arrive in Nairobi via Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. There re scheduled domestic flights from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport to Kenya’s major cities for example Lamu, Mombasa, Malindi and Kisumu. There are also several daily scheduled domestic flights from Wilson Airport in Nairobi to Samburu, Nanyuki, Mombasa, Lamu, Meru, Amboseli and Masai Mara. Domestic chartered flights are also available and fly directly to wither of the Coastal Airports of Malindi and Mombasa. Therefore, tour and travel operators are always available to help you book your chartered flights around the country as well as off Kenya’s boundaries to several other countries. By train; the Mombasa-Nairobi Standard Gauge Railway is Kenya’s major railway line that connects the Port city of Mombasa to Kenya’s capital city. This railway continues through Nairobi to Kampala in Uganda and famously known as the Lunatic Express. Visas and flights A valid visa of at least 6 months is one of the major requirements for one to fly to Kenya. However, beginning January 2024, all foreign nationals regardless of nationality can enter Kenya without a visa for tourism or business travel for stays of up to 90days. Therefore travelers must obtain a new Electronic Travel Authorization online prior to travel. Travelers with already paid and issued visas like the single journey visa, multi-entry visa, East Africa tourist visa, transit visa and many more will continue to use them until the expiry of their validity. Flight tickets to and from Kenya can be booked through your travel agents or directly with your preferred airlines. Other requirements may include the yellow-fever vaccination certificate and filling out a health surveillance form which is obtained online.  
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